Cinema Bandit is devoted to providing helpful articles, links, and interviews to help young and new filmmakers with their creative, technical, and professional development.
Today, we talk with filmmaker and actress Angela Matemotja as she makes her feature film debut with her film Elevate, which had its world premiere at the 10th annual DTLA Film Festival on October 20, 2018.
Written and directed by Matemotja, ELEVATE delivers a drama of intertwining stories about people who must fight to overcome their struggles with homophobia, food addiction, and racism. The film stars Brianna Brown (CW’S Dynasty), Kit Williamson (creator/star of award-winning and Emmy nominated LGBTQ series Eastsiders), Alexis Carra (Latina star of ABC’s Mixology) and Matemotja (Tyler Perry’s Single Mom’s Club).
What is your background as a creative?
ANGELA MOTEMOTJA: In college, I took an acting class at Cal State Long Beach as a “filler” class, then ended up leaving CSULB to attend The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the British American Academy in Oxford to study the classics. So I started as an actress. I was very much involved in theatre in New York and Los Angeles, and my directorial debut was directing a play entitled Sunshine For a Midnight Weary, for which I received an NAACP theatre nomination.
What is your film “Elevate” about?
AM: Elevate is a story centered around broken elevators about people who are also broken. But when the elevators get stuck, Trina is the overweight dispatch operator on the other end of the emergency line.
Trina’s job gets the best of her as she tries to complete just one day of healthy eating. Harassed by her cruel boss and overwhelmed by the trapped elevator occupants that reach out to her for help, her only escape is Lola, a fitness guru who she desperately tries to emulate.
In this drama, everyone finds themselves caught in the grips of food addiction, homophobia, and racism.
What inspired you to tell this particular story?
AM: After living in South Africa for 6 months in 2005, I left with so many questions and realizations that I ended up writing about it. My first short film The Encounter is a comment on post-apartheid South Africa. My father is also South African so this story is very personal to me. That story was expanded in Elevate to include another storyline that deals with homophobia and food addiction.
It was in a single moment while in South Africa. Something happened, I witnessed a robbery and felt completely frozen, powerless and was in shock. The encounter stemmed from that particular incident.
What was it like working with the cast?
AM: I was very fortunate to have such a talented cast. Because I am also an actress, I know many talented actors and was able to cast my friends. Working with them all was such a treat and the easiest part of making the film. We all pretty much spoke the same language and they all knew what they were doing. Even my dad, who’d never acted before, was amazing! I am so proud of the cast.
Both Brianna Brown and Dele Ogundiran are actresses, so was producing a new experience for them?
AM: No. Brianna and I had actually produced a web series together years ago that never quite got completed. We shot two episodes with three other first time producers, so that was where and how we really got our feet wet as producers.
Dele Ogundiran had just finished producing her own short film and a different web-series when I asked her to produce Elevate. Both of these ladies are awesome actors who also produce their own content.
As this is your feature film debut, what lessons did you learn as a first-time director?
AM: You are only as good as your cast and crew. Trust your cast and crew. Remember that you hired them for their expertise to get out of their way. Film is a collaboration, collaborate, don’t try to control.
What advice can you give filmmakers who are just starting out?
AM: You are never going to feel 100% ready so don’t wait until you feel ready. Jump. Just start and you will figure it out as you go, just make sure you surround yourself with people that have more experience than you. That’s what I did and so far it’s worked! We just had our world premiere and Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival and I am so pleased and honored to share I won a Female Pioneer Award!
Trust your instincts, surround yourself with smart people, and trust that you can and figure it out as you go along. No one feels ready with their first, just jump! We all have to start somewhere.
For more about ELEVATE visit: ElevateFilm.com